The largest ship in the Iranian navy caught fire and later sank on Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman under unclear circumstances, semi-official news agencies reported.

The Fars and Tasnim news agencies said efforts failed to save the support ship Kharg, named after the island that serves as the main oil terminal for Iran.

The blaze began around 2.25am and firefighters tried to contain it, state TV said. The vessel sank near the Iranian port of Jask, about 1,270 kilometres south-east of Tehran near the Strait of Hormuz.

Photos circulated on Iranian social media of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire burnt behind them. State TV and semi-official news agencies referred to the Kharg as a “training ship.”

The Kharg serves as one of a few vessels in the Iranian navy capable of providing replenishment at sea for its other ships.

The Iranian Kharg 431 supply navy ship is seen docked in the Red Sea Sudanese town of Port Sudan on October 31, 2012. The Iranian navy said on June 2, 2021 the vessel catched fire and sunk in Gulf of Oman, no casualties were reported. AFP

It also can lift heavy cargo and serve as a launch point for helicopters. The ship, built in Britain and launched in 1977, entered the Iranian navy in 1984 after lengthy negotiations that followed Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The sinking of the Kharg marks the latest naval disaster for Iran. In 2020 during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the port of Jask, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15. Also in 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.